Aussie girls’ school upgrades campus infrastructure to support BYOD, eBook program

Students at Melbourne’s Ruyton Girls’ School, one of Australia’s leading independent girls schools, are now able to enjoy new online learning opportunities after deploying a new core IT network from Brocade.

Established in 1878, and with a reputation for excellence in the education of girls and young women, Ruyton Girls’ School is consistently placed among the top academic performing schools in Melbourne. In its drive to help each student achieve educational excellence and personal fulfillment, the school is continually looking at ways to use technology to advance teaching, learning and back-office administrative functions.

“With a wide range of media-rich materials—such as video and voice—being consumed, shared and created as we educate today’s students, we were experiencing ever-increasing demands on network bandwidth, reliability and resilience,” said Chris Karopoulos, IT Manager at Ruyton Girls’ School. “Previously this was not a network issue, as material was stored on the local drives of each device whereas now most of our online course material is delivered with a 1 Gigabit Ethernet link into Australia’s Academic and Research Network.”

The school also wanted to implement a “bring your own device” (BYOD) policy and program as it looks to move to eBooks, but needed to ensure that the network would support this shift to multiple types of devices. The IT management team wanted greater transparency into networked devices so that they were not tasked with supporting unknown or unplanned devices. Brocade partner, Mycom, evaluated the school’s existing network infrastructure and devised a solution that would deliver the performance and resiliency required by the school’s students and staff. With 500 to 600 laptops on the network and with students being allowed to use smartphones, tablets and other devices, there is an average of 1,000 devices per day connected across the network.

A key area of focus was the network core, which depended on a single switch that was identified as a bottleneck and a potential single point of failure.

To address this issue and increase bandwidth across the network, the school deployed Brocade ICX 6610 Switches at the network core. The switches are linked together using four full-duplex 40 Gbps stacking ports that provide 320 Gbps of backplane bandwidth with full redundancy. This approach eliminates inter-switch bottlenecks while delivering wire-speed, non-blocking performance across all 1 GbE and 10 GbE switch ports.

In addition to implementing the new core network infrastructure, Mycom also provided the school with Brocade ICX 6450 and ICX 6430 Switches for network access. The Brocade ICX 6450, when used in school buildings where a high density of ports are needed, provides up to 48 1 GbE access ports per switch, with 10 GbE ports for redundant uplinks to the core and hitless stacking failover. The Brocade ICX 6430 Switches, meanwhile, provide 1 GbE network access in less network-intensive areas, such as the gymnasium and swimming pool building. Both types of access switch provide the Ruyton campus with Power-over-Ethernet (PoE) capabilities to support WiFi access points and IP phones and cameras in the future.

In addition, the Brocade switching infrastructure supports device-agnostic user authentication across the network and virtual private LANs that provide secure access to sensitive information assets. The use of Brocade Network Advisor software to centralize and streamline network management saves the school approximately half a day per week in network administration, according to Karopoulos.

“With more young people owning portable communications devices, BYOD is the future for students,” said Greig Guy, Country Manager Australia and New Zealand, Brocade. “With Brocade ICX Switches, Ruyton now boasts a non-stop networking infrastructure with enhanced redundancy and a resilient design, along with a high-speed backbone to support wireless users. The greater simplicity of the network has also improved the user experience with a cleaner, more presentable solution in the classroom.” With the new network in place and the school’s wireless infrastructure up and running, Ruyton has also completed a digital device review. This will see the introduction of a 1-to-1 iPad program from years Kinder to 6; the use of MacBook Air devices for years 7-9 and iPads in year 7, with the transition of these two devices (iPad and MacBook Air) to other levels in following years. As part of this digital device initiative Ruyton will be launching its BYOD program for years 10–12. This will make network reliability even more crucial as the school transitions from paper textbooks to eBooks.

“The flexible deployment model to ensure 100 percent uptime for students and staff during network upgrades, the simplified management of the solution deployed, the future-proof network design and the advanced technical capabilities were a winning offering,” said Karopoulos. “I also have previous experience with Brocade in the SAN marketplace with enterprise-grade switches, which are rock-solid and reliable, at a cost-effective price.”